by James Attlee
Can you be a pilgrim without leaving your life behind? How does it feel to approach everyday places with the same reverence as grand cathedrals? And how are we changed by even the smallest of journeys? James Attlee asks these questions and more in his thoughtful, streetwise, and personal account of a pilgrimage to a place he thought he already knew: the Cowley Road in Oxford, right outside his door. Attlee’s Cowley has little to do with the dreaming spires of his city. Leaving tourism and student life aside, Attlee instead presents a vital and delightfully motley collection of places, people, languages, and cultures.
From a sojourn in a sensory-deprivation tank to a furtive visit to an unmarked pornography emporium, from halal shops to Brazilian art dealers to reggae clubs to quiet churchyards, Attlee celebrates the appealing and homegrown eclecticism that so often comes under attack from predatory developers. Drawing inspiration from sources ranging from Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy to contemporary art, Isolarion is at once a charming road movie, a battle cry raised against creeping homogenisation, and a love song to the gloriously messy real life of the city he calls home.